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Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

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Faces of Pendleton: Gunnery Sgt. Frank Denault

By Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie | Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton | July 7, 2020

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Contributing to something bigger than yourself is a common motivating force behind enlisting in the Marine Corps.

This is what Gunnery Sgt. Frank Denault, the chief instructor for Infantry Unit Leader Course, Advanced Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry - West, used as motivation when deciding to join the Marine Corps.

Denault, a native of Kankakee, Illinois, became increasingly patriotic and motivated following 9/11. He strayed from his path of becoming an engineer to enlist in the Marine Corps. In 2004, Denault became an 0311, infantry rifleman.

Denault now prepares future and current enlisted infantry leaders to be able to assume the role of platoon commander in their absence. The IULC develops student’s decision-making and adaptive leadership skills by demonstrating them in a training environment.

“I still have the ability to inspire, there’s not a lot of Marines that have a lot of combat experience,” said Denault. “I still have a lot to give back to the younger generations.”

Prior to a deployment in 2010, Denault put in a package to become a combat instructor along with some of his close friends. With the experience and proficiency he had in this military occupational specialty, he felt this was the best move for his career.

While deployed to Afghanistan in October 2010, Denault’s friend, Sgt. Ian M. Tawney, was killed by an improvised explosive device during a foot patrol. Shortly thereafter in November, Denault was injured by rifle grenades while on an IED interdiction patrol. Denault remembers not trusting the look of three men in a nearby field while he was interacting with an elderly Afghan man. The three men eventually fired rifle grenades in Denault’s direction, peppering his face, neck and back with shrapnel.

“From just that one experience, I learned to trust my gut,” said Denault. “As soon as I stepped out I just knew something wasn’t right.”

When Denault returned from his deployment, he decided to honor Tawney and carry out the duty that they had applied for together. Denault returned to the fleet after his initial tour as a combat instructor, but was eventually selected by the Headquarters Marine Corps Special Duty Assignment Selection Team to serve as an instructor again in 2016.

All of Denault’s experiences have shaped his career path and has led the way to the next move in his career.

Earning a bachelor's degree has always been a goal of Denault’s, and now through the Degree Completion Program, Denault was selected to take the next year and a half to finish his degree. With his experiences and degree, Denault will help develop curriculum for Marines.

“This is something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Denault. “Hopefully I can come back and utilize the knowledge that I have gained to further serve the Marine Corps.”


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